‘Having baby means everything’: Why Modi govt’s new Surrogacy Bill is giving sleepless nights to couples
Several infertile couples, who long to have a child of their own, are having sleepless nights ever since the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved the introduction of the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019 that prohibits commercial surrogacy and allows altruistic surrogacy to the needy. While there are some who have preponed their plans to go for surrogacy (gestational), there are others who blame that the government is insensitive towards women and their desire to have children of their own.
One such woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that she was planning for surrogacy a few months later because of cash crunch but decided to take loan and started the formalities of hiring a surrogate mother as soon as she got to know that the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019 has been cleared by the Union Cabinet.
"I was planning to wait for a few months and save more money for surrogacy as we all know it’s very expensive but because of this Bill, I decided to prepone it. I didn’t want to take a loan for it but having a baby of our own is my only dream and I can go to any extent for that," the 40-year-old married woman - who hails from Ambala and resides in the national capital - said.
What is Surrogacy?
“Surrogacy is a method of reproduction whereby a woman agrees to become pregnant and deliver a child for infertile couples, who long to have a child of their own but despite several efforts and many In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) cycles, things didn’t work,” Dr Rita Bakshi, senior gynaecologist and IVF expert at International Fertility Centre.
There are two types currently used – ‘traditional’ and ‘gestational’. Traditional surrogacy is done via Artificial Insemination (AI), with the surrogate using her own egg and another man's sperm. Gestational surrogacy is done via IVF, where fertilized eggs from another woman are implanted into the surrogate's uterus. Gestational surrogacy is more popular because it gives the intending couple a chance to raise a child that is genetically completely their own.
Dr Rita Bakshi suggested that the government should fix the amount of money to be paid to surrogate mothers. (Representational Image)
“You have to understand that the baby is of that man and the woman because it is created outside and it grows for 4-5 days in the incubator and is then transferred in the uterus of the third woman who acts as a surrogate. So surrogate is a woman who is just a harbouring vessel for the baby and the baby has got no DNA, no genetic of the surrogate so the woman in a way is just feeding the baby to grow,” Dr Rita Bakshi.
Cost of Surrogacy
According to Dr Rita Bakshi, the entire procedure cost around Rs 10-12 lakhs including the payments for the surrogate, her look after for nine months, her diet, her stay at surrogacy home plus the IVF cycles and legal contracts. Out of this, Rs4-5 lakh goes to the surrogate mother.
“Once we find a woman who is ready to be a surrogate mother, we test her mentally, physically, psychologically, and medically. We even meet the family before deciding whether the woman is fit to become a surrogate or not. Only when she clears all the tests i.e. she is as good as any other women to harbour the pregnancy then only she is hired as a surrogate mother. These procedures take around 6 weeks,” the doctor said while explained the high cost of the surrogacy.
Contentious Points of Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019
The high cost of surrogacy is one of the reasons the government want to regulate non-commercial or ‘altruistic surrogacy’ and allows only close relatives to act as surrogates.
But many feel that this is one of the serious issues about the Bill. Women feel that they won’t become a mother if such a Bill sees the light of the day as it will become extremely difficult to find a relative willing to help when they know that there will be no monetary benefits.
"The Bill talks about employing a relative as a surrogate mother. We are a middle-class family and I don’t think we will be comfortable to discuss these things with our relatives. Moreover, why will someone become surrogate if I won’t pay her and I can give you in writing that no relative will come forward to help us with this," the woman – who recently opted for surrogacy - said.
Moreover, this will, in turn, encourage 'under the table' means, said the doctor.
She suggested that the government should fix the amount of money to be paid to surrogate mothers as this will bring transparency and will put to an end to the exploitation they are sometimes subjected to.
The entire procedure of surrogacy cost around Rs 10-12 lakhs including the payments for the surrogate. (Representational Image)
"Ban on commercial surrogacy is heartbreaking and altruistic surrogacy only adds to the misery. Infertility in itself is very much disturbing and the government with such steps is only appending miseries for people like us. I know what others out there must be feeling who have wanted to go for surrogacy because I been through the same road when my IVF procedure's failed. To become a mother is a feeling of content and satisfaction for women like us who have actually experienced infertility for years. Surrogacy to us is everything. It completed our family and gave us a reason to live," said another woman who recently became a mother through surrogacy.
"While commercial surrogacy will be prohibited, including sale and purchase of human embryo and gametes, ethical surrogacy to the needy infertile couples will be allowed on fulfilment of stipulated conditions. It will also prohibit exploitation of surrogate mothers and children born through surrogacy," an official, privy to the development, was quoted as saying.
“The second thing which is a cause of concern is that the surrogate mother should be in the age group of 25-35 years and she should have had the child of her own. Another contentious issue is five-year clause i.e. a couple which knows they will be childless must wait for five years before because if a woman knows that she has no uterus at all, what is the need of waiting for 5 years,” said Dr Rita Bakshi.
When asked to comment about reports that India is emerging as a surrogacy hub for couples from different countries, the doctor said that India stopped foreign surrogacy in 2015 and this facility is only open for Indian people. “No surrogacy has been done for foreigners in the last four years,” she added.
Moreover, she suggested that there should be a central authority where a surrogate should go and get herself registered. If she enrols as a surrogate in a centre with her name and Aadhaar number (because almost everyone has an Aadhaar card), one can easily find a surrogate.
With infertility affecting about 1 out of every 6 couples – which includes not just those unable to conceive after 12 months of trying, but also those that cannot carry a pregnancy to term - (according to a report, ‘Surrogate Motherhood: Ethical or Commercial?’ by Centre for Social Research published in 2013) such a Bill is likely to increase the difficulties for intending parents in coming days.